Saturday, June 8, 2013

An Open Letter

On June 10, 2006, I joined a little website called Zazzle. It seemed like a fun “hobby” to have, a place where I could put up t-shirt designs for my friends and me. What started out simply as just that – a friend had me customize some t-shirts for her and some of her friends – eventually turned into a place to make a few dollars. I took photos and turned them into cards, postage, and posters. I thought of fun sayings and put them on t-shirts and tote bags. And eventually, strangers started to buy them.

It took me awhile to make any real money. I would go months without hitting the threshold for actually receiving a payment from Zazzle. But once I did, it fueled my desire to try harder and go further. After a few years, I was receiving monthly payments that helped supplement my out of the house work income. I was able to buy groceries or pay bills. I was able to have fun money to save up and spend on vacations. If felt great that people out there liked my designs – be it photography, plain text, or digital designs. And Zazzle was such a fun, easy place to be. It was my home away from home, even though I was doing it AT home. I met some great and amazing people who would become very dear friends. And the people at Zazzle seemed to genuinely care about their shopkeepers – the independent designers and artists who worked so hard to create products that kept shoppers coming back for more.

Then things changed. In 7 years, I have seen ups and downs, changes good and iffy, and have worked through them like a trouper, accepting them and adapting to them. However, things are changing again and I cannot turn a blind eye to them this time.

What was once a happy place for me to go, be creative, relieve some stress, and have some fun has turned into a place full of uncertainty and frustration.  As it stands right now, we ‘little’ designers and artists stand to lose out on a lot of potential income. This is so disheartening and a blow to our personal lives and goals. Many people use Zazzle as an additional source of income. Many more use it as their only source of income.
Look at it this way: A Monday-Friday full time job outside of the home could never get away with suddenly telling their employees that they are going to lose out on bonuses, be paid less, or pay a penalty if they insist on making their same, current wage without taking some heat from those employees. It is wrong and should not be accepted.  Just because someone is working independently for a company does not mean that who they are doing the work for can do the same thing and think it is ok to do, and not expect the same heat as any other workplace. Taking away our bonus incentives is wrong. Asking us to lower our royalty percentage or pay a penalty is wrong. Treating your artists and designers as if they are things of insignificance and not people with feelings and lives is wrong.

There is a part of me that wonders why I should bother putting any further time and energy into something, someone who does not wish to put any time or energy into me. Should I say not to shop at Zazzle, out of principal, to someone who asks about it? I’ve struggled with these feelings. It’s not a good feeling to feel or position to be in. But Zazzle put me here. Zazzle put many people here.

No, don’t stop shopping at Zazzle. The products are high quality. The work they do is great and much better than some other print-on-demand sites. Don’t stop shopping at Zazzle and choosing the fabulous designs you see there because you will be putting people like me, my friends, and my fellow designers out of business, and the last thing this world needs is more people out of work.
But if you are going to shop at Zazzle, I ask you to please buy from the independent designers – not Disney, not Barbie, not Marvel, not DC Comics, not Looney Tunes, not Hallmark, nor any of the other big, brand names you can find there. Support small. Support custom. Support us, the little people working hard to create designs that are unique and individual. Support your friends and family. And support the arts – locally and online. 

Thank you for reading from Rdwnggrl's World.

No comments: